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Irish Player Ratings As Sexton's Genius Bails Ireland Out In Paris

Irish Player Ratings As Sexton's Genius Bails Ireland Out In Paris
By Gavin Cooney Updated

If all good things come to those to wait...Ireland needed forty-one phases as a prelude to genius.

A haggard, ragged performance beneath a louring Paris sky from Ireland looked like it would end in a repeat of two years ago, as Teddy Thomas went all Maxime Medard to seemingly give France a one-point win that owed as much to Irish carelessness as it did French quality.

But as the clock hit red, Ireland kept their discipline to roll through 41 phases, giving Johnny Sexton a platform to land a remarkable, 42-metre drop goal for a 15-13 win. Here are the Irish player ratings.

Rob Kearney - 7

While his attacking occasionally lacks adventure - in the first half, he was too eager to toss the ball to Keith Earls out wide, rather than wait and give the French tackler a decision to make - he was defensively outstanding, his positioning and reading of the game denying the French a certain try in the first-half. Was MIA on the French try, however. Will lament the curious Nigel Owens call not to award a penalty for his being clearly taken out in the air beforehand.

Keith Earls - 7

Earls looked razor sharp on Ireland's right-wing, but was starved of possession as Ireland reneged on their early ambition as the game wore on, with Ireland rarely tossing the ball wide as the rain kept falling and the French defenders kept tackling. A horrid knock-on under no pressure as Ireland had to chase the game compounded everyone's woes, but made up for it all by taking Sexton's cross-field kick in the build-up to the final kick.

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Bundee Aki - 6

Aki's superior physicality in the first-half was summed up by a clash of knees with Jallibert - the young out-half made way while Aki played on. He linked up well with Henshaw in the opening few minutes when Ireland showed ambition to toss the ball around, but these opportunities receded as France drew Ireland into a dogfight. Offered little attacking incision

Robbie Henshaw - 7 

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Henshaw was subsisting off scraps, but was impressive throughout. His defensive line speed was excellent, his tackling outstanding, and managed to eke out a couple of metres over the gain-line with virtually every carry.

Jacob Stockdale - 5.5

Looked like the marrow in his bones had been replaced by mercury as Teddy Thomas blew past him on the French try. A difficult debut, and whether he will be offered the chance to rehabilitate against Italy is in doubt with Jordan Larmour lingering with intent in the background. Was whipped off almost immediately after the French try.

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Johnny Sexton - 9

HOLY SHIT WHAT A KICK. HE'S AMAZING. FORGET ABOUT THAT MISSED PENALTY.

Conor Murray - 6.5

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Far from immaculate from Murray, with the first-half in particular marked by some uncharacteristically loose kicking and passing. That said, he was one of the main targets of the ferocious French linespeed.

Cian Healy - 6

Healy has shed some muscle, but has retained much of his strength, evident in a first-half when Healy plucked a French player out of ruck with each hand. Overall, solid in the scrum and was one of Ireland's better ball-carriers, particularly in the first-half. Not to damn him with faint praise.

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Rory Best - 6.5

His lineout throws were perfectly fine, and was his usual busy self in the loose. With France giving penalties away for fun, however, he could have been more proactive in pressuring Nigel Owens to reach for the yellow card in his pocket.

Tadhg Furlong - 7

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Once again the rock upon which a solid scrum was built, with Furlong's work on the ball customarily tireless. He will, however, be disappointed to have the ball ripped from his arms as Ireland rolled toward the try line, one of the many examples of a herculean performance by French back-rower Poirot.

Iain Henderson - 6

Ireland's ball-carrying was poor, for which Henderson is culpable: making just 11 metres all day. Disappointing from the senior member of Ireland's second-row.

James Ryan - 8.5

Bar one sloppy moment at the breakdown which could have had serious ramifications but for the covering of Rob Kearney, Ryan was the game's outstanding player. He had made more carries, tackles and metres than any of his teammates before going off for Devin Toner. An odd decision to replace him, and not Henderson.

Peter O'Mahony - 6

O'Mahony was less influential than usual, with even a trademark lineout steal in the first-half hoisted by a subsequent Irish infringement. His most conspicuous contribution was a deeply odd attempt at a flick pass out wide, which ended in a French scrum.

Josh Van Der Flier - 5.5

His Paris debut ended four minutes before half-time, limping away having jarred his knee with his studs riven to the turf. Had failed to make much of an impact in truth, although was toward the top of the Irish tackle count before his departure.

CJ Stander - 6

Ireland's ball-carrying in the first-half was poor, with Stander's the most disappointing. A massive turnover on the hour mark the highlight of his afternoon and he ended the day as Ireland's top tackler.

Replacements 

Dan Leavy (7) replaced Van Der Flier just before half-time and added far more thrust in the loose, so expect him to start against Italy.

Sean Cronin offered little as a replacement for Rory Best, while Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, Fergus McFadden, John Ryan were not on long enough to be rated.

 

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